Footprints of Russian boots on Georgian soil
17 March, 2011
Footprints of Russian boots on Georgian soil

‘I was watching CNN when I suddenly saw our inflamed car. Then in the background I saw our house still standing. ‘We are saved!’ I shouted.’


Burnt and damaged houses, traces of artillery shells and bullet ricochets on the walls of the buildings that line the streets of Karaleti in South Ossetia since August 2008, when Russia invaded the village.
During the war Karaleti had been one of the flashpoints for intense urban fighting with only a few locals remaining

behind – those who could not or would not leave their houses. Although the residents of Karaleti returned to their homes soon after the brief armed conflict, they now face extreme social and economic hardship.
Four year-old Christine Sukhitashvili, with her eleven-year-old sister, lives in Karaleti, in a cottage that turns out to be too small to accommodate a family of six. That is a reason why grandparents decided to live next to the cottage, in a burnt house of their own, damaged during the war. They started repairing the house with the money allocated by the State – USD 10 000, but with that sum they could repair only a single room: the kitchen, where the elderly couple now lives.
There are numerous issues that the inhabitants of Karaleti now face.  “Unemployment is the main problem for the village. It is next to impossible to find a job”, Christine’s mother, 32-year-old Tamar Chokhrokize remarks. She is unemployed. Her husband has an occasional job at a market in Tbilisi, but this work is unstable. The actual income for the family is the grandmother’s salary. She works at a bakery.
44-year-old Venera Baduashvili left her house during the war. To her disbelief Ossetian soldiers burned only her car while she was away. “I was watching CNN when I suddenly saw our inflamed car. Then in the background I saw our house that was still standing. ‘We are saved!’ I shouted. The house was not damaged.” She returned home, but soon after her husband’s health quickly deteriorated and he died because of the lack of the means to treat him appropriately. She is now the only person who supports her family financially by working at a church, receiving GEL 30 per month.
“These people cannot yet adapt to their new lives, different environment, which is unusual for them - with  no cattle or fruit gardens that used to make their living before the war broke out. Now the source of income for many of these people is the State assistance for each refugee family amounting to GEL 22 a month”, Nona Kurdovanidze, a member of Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association says, ”And it is the Government’s obligation to assist them in integration”.
Koba Subeliani, Minister of Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) from the Occupied Territories, Accommodation and Refugees of Georgia, explains to Georgian Journal: “We have a strategy regarding the matter. Now, when 25 000 refugee families are provided with permanent accommodation and decent living conditions, we started to work on making these people self-employed and thus lessening their dependence on state assistance. That is why we supply them with different goods from apple seedlings to cattle”.
The policy of self-employment coincides with the action plan 2011 of UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), which states: “Regarding the IDPs, UNHCR will shift from providing direct assistance, such as shelter construction and income-generating activities, to protection monitoring, advocacy and standard setting”.
“Our Ministry along with international donors and partners exert everyday efforts to improve the living condition of the people who have suffered as a result of the war”, Koba Subeliani stresses.
Furthermore, the final verdict shall be announced by the European Court of Human Rights, where Georgia accuses Russia of ethnic oppression, inhumane treatment, violation of children’s rights and all other European regulations. Georgia is in anticipation while thousands of Georgian refugees are trying to build new lives.

 

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